Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

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StormyMondayThe President wants to extend wilderness designation and concomitant environmental protections to millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move opposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans, who would prefer to drill the crap out of ANWR. Showcasing her famed policy chops and keen intellect, Murkowski commented, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.”

Speaking of negotiations with Iran, Republicans are hell-bent on screwing those up too. Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct what it risibly describes as a “hearing” on the status of the negotiations. As Congress lurches toward additional sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the other day that such a move would “kill the joint plan of action that we adopted last year in Geneva.” In another odd development, Zarif has been summoned to explain to his nation’s parliament why he went for a “15-minute walk” with John Kerry in Geneva on January 14. Uh-oh…

“Winter Storm Juno” is bearing down on the Northeast, with blizzard conditions expected to affect up to 28 million people. Juno’s worst impact will last from Monday evening into Tuesday, with snowfall rates of two to four inches an hour and total accumulations of two feet or more forecast for some areas of New England. The suspiciously enthusiastic Henry Margusity, an Accuweather meteorologist, took to Twitter to announce, “It will be like a tidal wave of snow into New England tonight into Tuesday.”

Tuesday, the President will pass up a planned trip to the Taj Mahal and cut short his stay in India to head for Saudi Arabia for a meeting with its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, our latest staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East. Salman succeeds his recently deceased brother Adbullah, our previous staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East.

The legendary Ernie Banks will be honored by a public memorial Wednesday at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. The statue of “Mr. Cub” at Wrigley Field will be moved to Daley Plaza for the occasion. Banks, 83, died Friday following a heart attack. Funeral arrangements are still pending. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

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New Year, New Grumpy

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Grumpy2Grumpy: Hey, Mouse, I have news you’re really going to like. I am turning over a new leaf in 2015. I think I am going to be less grumpy. And you have my wonderful cousin to thank for it! Before I get to that part of the story, though, I think I need to let out my grumpy old self for a few paragraphs.

Mouse: Gee, this doesn’t mean I have to be the grumpy one, does it? ‘Cause I don’t think I can do grumpy as good as you did. But do go on. I need to know what happened.

Grumpy: You see I live in a very Teapublican state. Except for a few pockets of sanity centered on a few large cities, the state consistently elects the most conservative people that walk the earth. Needless to say equality is not high on their list of priorities. The LGBT members of our communities are among the biggest victims of their regressive policies. That is not to say that other groups such as the poor and homeless don’t also suffer, but at least the members of those groups can do all of the things we think of as normal for humans to do. For example, the poor and homeless can marry. My LGBT friends cannot.

The regressives are so intent on keeping their LGBT neighbors, friends and even family down that they enshrined it into the state constitution. While the rest of the country was changing and growing in acceptance, my state, in 2004, passed this Constitutional amendment:

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.

Fortunately the progressive community, the LGBT community and the ACLU are not taking it and are fighting back. Details of some of those efforts can be found at the Human Rights Campaign website.

One of those efforts includes Obergefell v. Himes, filed in 2013 in support of Jim Olbergefell. When his husband, John Arthur, who Jim married in another state, died, Jim was not allowed to be listed on the death certificate as the surviving spouse. That case, along with another, was ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but unfortunately the conservative 6th Circuit Court reversed the lower court. That ruling broke a string of Federal Court decisions in favor of equality. Now the case is before SCOTUS and in January we may learn if the high court will agree to hear the plaintiffs appeal.

Remember those pockets of progressivism I mentioned? The governments in some of those islands of rationality have set up Domestic Partnership Registries which allow some domestic partners (including same sex partners) to use some of the same benefits enjoyed by married hetero couples. The key word here is “some” because those registries and benefits are very limited in what they provide.

That brings me back full circle to my awesome cousin.

On Friday, January 2, 2015, Dawn and her lovely partner Mallory signed paperwork establishing the legal status of their domestic partnership, in their home with family and friends present as witnesses. It was a lovely time. A celebration with love, light and hugs all around. I could not imagine a lovelier couple or ceremony. Continue reading New Year, New Grumpy

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Stormy Monday, 5/26/14

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StormyMondayAfter his invigorating Memorial Day weekend trip to Afghanistan, the President leaves the storied delights of Bagram Airfield behind for the shilling fields of DC. No wonder he’s planning to get out of town again by midweek, when he’ll head to West Point to deliver a commencement address focused on foreign policy, advocating what one Administration official calls “interventionism but not overreach.”

But before he gets that far, on Tuesday the President plays host to the fifth annual White House Science Fair. This year’s edition celebrates the achievements of women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competitions nationwide.

Speaking of the President, Senator Ted Cruz, intrepid Texan-Canadian-Cuban defender of all things he considers Constitutional, warned last Thursday that the wily Kenyan Usurper and his Senate henchmen are goiing to repeal the First Amendment. Will it happen this week? You never know. Stay vigilant, and keep a bag packed in case you have to flee the house ahead of the secret police coming to haul you off to that FEMA camp you heard tell was being built out there in the woods past Transit Road.

Tuesday, voters will decide whether veteran Congressman Ralph Hall – 91 years old and a lurid example of that weirdest of political creatures, a Democrat turned Republican – should get another kick at the can, or whether he has already done sufficient damage to the Republic and should be replaced by the even more odious John Ratcliffe. If you’re a voter in the Texas 4th, well, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, “any way you look at it, you lose.”

Edward Snowden’s first interview with US mainstream media appears Wednesday, when NBC airs a sit-down he taped with the oleaginous Brian Williams in Moscow last week. I reckon the odds of Williams eliciting anything probative are roughly the same as Snowden’s chances of returning home to a tickertape parade and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

With John Conyers’ name back on the primary ballot by order of US District Court Judge Matthew Leitman last Friday, all eyes are on Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who has until June 6 to appeal the reinstatement before the ballot is officially certified. With Conyers on the ballot or as a write-in candidate, the primary will be held on August 5. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/26/14

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Stormy Monday, 5/12/14

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StormyMondayWith the Benghazi pseudo-scandal momentarily on hold as John Boehner’s Republican-dominated kangaroo court – uh, I mean select committee, is assembled, the Secret Service has set tongues wagging with the revelation by the agency’s former director, Mark Sullivan, that agents were routinely pulled from White House perimeter duty to protect Sullivan’s assistant at her Maryland home. Expect calls this week for House and Senate investigations. And don’t be surprised if Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann or one of their GOP colleagues gets the bright idea to have Sullivan reappointed to his old position so that they can then demand his resignation again. Hell, one or more conservative pundits clamoring for the President’s impeachment on the grounds that he failed to micromanage his own security detail wouldn’t shock me either.

In other Secret Service news, Thomas Lemuel “Lem” Johns, who was assistant to the special agent in charge of LBJ’s security detail in Dallas on November 22, 1963, died Saturday, aged 88. The Alabama native was present at Johnson’s ad hoc inaugural aboard Air Force One, and would later head the agency’s Birmingham field office. His son and grandson also went on to serve on presidential security details. Lem Johns will be interred at Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Patty Murray of Washington will introduce the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014, which would “amend the Social Security Act to grant survivor benefits to any individual legally married anywhere in the United States, regardless of whether he or she lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.” The bill is co-sponsored by another Democrat, Colorado’s Mark Udall. Yep. Not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties. Yep.

With a ton of testosterone-tinged rancor left over from his aggression in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin could be poised to invade the Eurovision Song Contest following Friday’s victory in Copenhagen by Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst’s impassioned “Rise Like a Phoenix.” Russia was unsuccessful in its efforts to strong-arm the contest into banning Wurst’s performance. Following the result, Russian Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin noisily tweeted about Europe’s future being “a bearded girl,” while numbskull MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky described the win as “the end of Europe.” Wurst’s performance is a marvel, no question, and certainly anything that ticks off Pootie is a good thing, but to a codger like me it’ll never top Eurovision winner “Waterloo,” which poured non-stop out of every transistor radio in Europe during my summer there in 1974. Yes, it was a simpler, more innocent era: the Paris Peace Accord had crumbled, resulting in renewed hostilities in Vietnam, civil war raged and Haile Selassie was dethroned in Ethiopia, Turkey invaded Cyprus (twice), the Red Brigades were bombing seemingly every passenger train I wanted to take, and Richard Milhous Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Tuesday, Vice President Biden heads to St. Louis with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to call for renewed Congressional spending to supplement the shrinking Highway Trust Fund. Wednesday, he’ll repeat the message in Cleveland. The President will reinforce the call to action with a Wednesday speech at New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge, currently undergoing costly but long overdue refurbishment, and a Friday brainstorming session in Washington devoted to infrastructure renewal.

On a related note, it’s National Transportation Week. So go somewhere. Infrastructure conditions permitting, of course. Stay safe. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/12/14

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Take Five (Looking Down on Creation edition)

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Take-FiveONE: Big Bung Theory

Creation Museum founder Ken Ham brought tidings of great joy to creationists and non-creationists alike when he announced that on February 4 at the “museum,” he and Bill Nye will debate the question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?” Ham thinks the event will be a chance to “show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.” Personally, I think it will be a chance for Ham to make a fool of himself, though that would hardly be novel.

Ham – who, ironically, kind of resembles the Neanderthal from the Geico commercials, not that there’s anything wrong with that – describes the event as “an important debate to have.” Well, for the Creation Museum, that’s no doubt true; it will put desperately needed asses in the 900 seats of “Legacy Hall” at 25 bucks a pop. Tickets purportedly sold out within minutes, which sounds impressive until you consider that a recent Pew poll finds only 43% of Republicans currently believe in evolution, down from 54% in 2013.

On the brighter side, if $29 million in municipal bonds aren’t purchased by February 6, the Creation Museum’s long-delayed sister project, the Ark Encounter, might run aground. Which is in itself a more convincing suggestion of the existence of God than any of the Ark Encounter’s proposed exhibits could ever be.

TWO: Diet Hard

For all their efforts to stake a claim to the bottom of the political barrel, Republicans invariably find that the territory has already been surveyed and subdivided, by folks like Trestin Meacham. The former political candidate for something called the Constitution Party recently staged a hunger strike to protest Utah’s same-sex marriage prohibition being found unconstitutional.

I’d never heard of Meacham’s party before. And now that I have, I wish I hadn’t. The Constitution Party’s official platform is an eerily calm manifesto of addled extremism, equal parts libertarian gobbledygook and white-picket-fence fascism. The Constitutionists (Constitutionals? Constitutionics?) would ban abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. They want to repeal the 17th Amendment and turn the business of electing the Senate over to state legislatures. They want the Voting Rights Act and McCain-Feingold repealed, and the FEC abolished. They would eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education. They deny global warming and want the Endangered Species Act overturned. And they oppose “any legal recognition of homosexual or civil unions,” which is where Meacham’s little stunt comes in.

Meacham announced his fast with the solemn self-importance of a five-year-old declaring that he’s running away from home. Minus the cuteness:

“I cannot stand by and do nothing while this evil takes root in my home. Some things in life are worth sacrificing one’s heath and even life if necessary. I am but a man, and do not have the money and power to make any noticeable influence in our corrupt system. Never the less, I can do something that people in power cannot ignore.”

Well, “not with standing” his confidence, the people in power “never the less” ignored him for over two weeks, long enough for him to shed 26 pounds. When the Supreme Court conveniently ordered a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah pending a review by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Meacham was understandably quick to break his fast with a bowl of yogurt. But be assured that whatever his weight, he’s still a fathead, as he’s happy to prove over and over again on his Facebook page:

“The homosexual movement is less tolerant than the Nazis and if they had the power of the Nazis, I have no doubt they would not hesitate to march people of faith into ovens.”

Oh, please just go eat it, Mr. Meacham.

THREE: A Star Is Sworn?

In about a year, Arizona will be rid of the term-limited Jan Brewer. The bad news? Her successor might be even worse. For starters, Ken Bennett, Arizona’s current Secretary of State, has made no secret of his interest in the office. Among his many liabilities, if elected he would be the first known birther to inhabit a governor’s mansion.

It gets worse. Oafish action star and non-credentialed law enforcement officer Steven Seagal now says he’s maybe, kinda, sorta considering a run. The idea appears to have originated with Seagal’s crime-bustin’ compadre Joe Arpaio. At least that’s one Arpaio brainstorm that won’t cost Maricopa County taxpayers astonishing sums of money.

From a population of 6,553,255, is Steven Seagal – who probably doesn’t even fulfill the state’s residency requirement – really the best Arizona can do? No, but better alternatives have been slow to present themselves so far. Brewer has even hinted on several occasions that she might challenge the term limit statute. Absent a Democrat winning the office, which is far from assured, it’s more than a little pathetic that the best possible follow-up to Jan Brewer could be Jan Brewer herself.

As far as I’m aware, the only announced Democrat in the running so far is former Bruce Babbitt protégé Fred DuVal, who went on to work in the Clinton White House.  He seems like a bright guy, but one who has spent an excessive amount of time and energy pursuing the chimera of meaningful bipartisan cooperation. He also has a clutch of tediously moderate positions and disconcerting ties to that old snake oil merchant T. Boone Pickens.

Arizona deserves better, so I’m just going to go ahead and nominate my sister-in-law Arlene for the position. She’s liberal as all get-out, she meets the residency requirement, and I’ll bet she could snap Steven Seagal’s neck like a twig. Continue reading Take Five (Looking Down on Creation edition)

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Stormy Monday, 11/11/13

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StormyMondayIf you’re reading this, either the fragments of the Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer didn’t fall on you or you have an admirably hard head. The European Space Agency satellite ran out of fuel on October 21 and was predicted to crash late Sunday or early Monday. The ESA expects it to break up at an altitude of about 50 miles, resulting in a spray of debris centered over… well, they don’t really know.

If I got to choose a location for GOCE’s crash landing, I’d be tempted to pick room 2154 in the Rayburn House Office Building. Barring such celestial fallout, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will use the room Wednesday morning for yet another of what its chair, Darrell Issa, likes to refer to as “hearings” into the Affordable Care Act. (Far from being exercises in hearing, the proceedings have to date generally resembled the shambolic tribunal of orangutans convened to decide Charlton Heston’s fate in Planet of the Apes.)

To that end, Issa has subpoenaed Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration, to appear. Despite having nothing much to do – other than, oh, directing the repair and remediation of healthcare.gov, the site whose technical issues have caused such consternation to Issa and so many others who were completely opposed to Obamacare from the get-go – Park so far shows no sign of complying with the subpoena. It goes without saying that we haven’t heard the last of this, because of course when it comes to Darrell Issa, there is no last of this. Ever.

Speaking of never ending, Rick Santorum heads to Des Moines on Monday, ostensibly to shill for the forthcoming movie A Christmas Candle, produced by his new family-friendly film venture, EchoLight Studios. The fact that the Iowa caucuses remain the first noteworthy date on the presidential electoral calendar is, of course, a coincidence so remarkable that it’s almost a Christmas miracle. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/11/13

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Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

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ONE: Party Scooper?

Sarah Palin has managed to turn feigned anger into a pretty damned lucrative pseudo-career. Now on her second stint with Fox News and coming off a headlining appearance at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” shindig, Palin’s newest gambit is to imply that she might cut and run from the Republican Party. The GOP power structure would probably be relieved were this to happen, but only to a point. Palin’s enduring popularity with zero-information conservatives could be the catalyst for a significant number of traditionally reliable Republican voters bolting for weirder pastures.

Asked by a Twitter questioner whether she and rightwing radio loudmouth Mark Levin might “be willing to build a ‘Freedom Party’ if [the] GOP continues to ignore conservatives,” Palin got right down to some of that fancy pageant walkin’ that remains her only true aptitude:

“I love the name of that party — the ‘Freedom Party,’” Palin said. “And if the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent,’ kind of with that libertarian streak that much of us have.”

Yes, uh, much of them do. Putting aside the absurdity of her characterization of Republicans as the “party of Lincoln and Reagan” – which is like calling Chicago the “city of Studs Terkel and John Wayne Gacy” – I’m guessing she could no more name a plank in the party platform than she could name a newspaper back in 2008. Palin continued, in commendably fluent Palinese:

“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation, either a Democrat or a Republican.’ Remember these are private parties, and you know, no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.”

Darn right they don’t, Governor. I won’t get my hopes up that this is anything more than you pandering to your fans, but if your comments were at all sincere, I look forward to you and your acolytes fancy pageant walkin’ your splinter cell, and the GOP, straight to permanent electoral oblivion.

TWO: Through a Glass Snarkly

Barack Obama’s first term was barely underway when I experienced my first queasy twinges of disappointment. At first, it was nothing overt, nothing readily explicable; a strangely off-kilter statement here, an abrupt about-face there. Soon came the willful misrepresentations, blatant distortions, even bald-faced lies. Almost before I knew it, I found myself feeling more and more burned, betrayed, deceived. The sentiments gradually intensified over months and years, eventually becoming something resembling utter, exasperated disgust.

I’m not referring to the President’s policies and actions (even ones I oppose adamantly, such as Race to the Top, the escalation in Afghanistan, some woeful compromises on energy policy and the environment, and some pretty questionable appointments). I’m referring to the hypertensive squawking that now passes for “criticism” across a broad swath of the cyber-left, and what has devolved into a churlish and counterproductive reaction to this presidency.

The recurring clichés tell a lot of the story. He “lied” about closing Gitmo. He “lied” about ending George Bush’s wars. He “dragged his feet” on DADT and DOMA. He “rolled over” on even trying to implement a universal, single-payer health care system and then “shrugged” at the failure of the public option. He “bailed out” Wall Street and “ignored” Main Street. He “embraced” the use of drones and expanded it to new operational theaters. He “ramped up” persecution of altruistic medical marijuana operations and courageous whistleblowers alike. He brutally “suppressed” the Occupy movement. He “wasted” his “huge” majorities from 2009 to 2011 and got “nothing” accomplished. He eschewed using the “power” of the bully pulpit (while giving “nice” speeches). And now he is “revealed” to have taken the surveillance state to new heights of “intrusive” overreach and “Orwellian” excess.

Throughout the Bush years, I depended on a host of progressive pundits and bloggers to keep me informed, encouraged and emboldened. Some of the very same people now seem more interested in inciting a howling mob to stand in a perpetual downpour outside the gates of the citadel, declaring as one that this presidency and this President have been failures. For some, it seems as if Barack Obama was de-legitimized merely by winning office and actually having to govern.

At the heart of much of the “criticism” is a sense that the “critics” feel jilted somehow, that the duplicitous Barack Obama represented himself as FDR Redux, that he campaigned as a fire-breathing progressive, that he was supposed somehow to govern simply by asking himself what George Bush would have done on any issue and then immediately doing the diametrical opposite. I don’t doubt that some of this is genuine and heartfelt, but it’s still heavily underpinned by the fierce urgency of unreasonable expectations and an unhealthy ignorance of basic civics, not to mention an oddly selective critical faculty that takes nothing the government says at face value but will readily suspend skepticism over the latest inane Paulite bullshit, or worse.

Equally illuminating is the strident name-calling found at the larger nominally progressive discussion sites (one of which purports to exist in part to “elect more Democrats”). Expressing confidence in the Democratic Party and the President, or articulating any degree of comfort with the notion of incremental change and willingness to accept the frustrations of compromise and misstep is simply courting vituperation. The epithets this supposed heresy solicits, some dating all the way back to early 2009, have become more and more meaningless as they have become more and more venomous: DINO, DLCer, Third Wayer, Vichy Dem, sellout, apologist, propagandist, fanboi, Kool-Aid drinker, authoritarian, worshipper. It’s debate by tantrum.

Add to this an astonishing compulsion to play the victim. Rahm Emmanuel called me retarded! I’ve been hippie-punched! The Catfood Commission wants to kill my granny! Robert Gibbs dissed the Professional Left, and I’m a leftist so he obviously meant me! Obama said I’m all wee-weed up! Obama told me to eat my peas!

A lot of this is grandstanding, theatrical ego-tripping; start with, say, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and you can draw a direct line right to the oh-so-aggrieved message board bloviators who insist in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary that Obama is worse than Bush, to a frenetic chorus of hurrahs. The new frontier of perpetual outrage is limitless; anyone can stake a claim.

And then there’s race. The last thing in the world I want to believe is that any sincere liberal would have a problem with the President’s skin color, but comments from some quarters about his supposed passivity and ineptitude don’t sound very different to me from accusations of shiftlessness. There’s a rank ugliness about some of this that’s hard to fathom if it’s anything other than racism.

These things aren’t universal, of course. There are still rational voices on the left side of the Internet, and I count myself very grateful to be aligned with some of them right here on this site. Those voices don’t shy away from honest criticism where honest criticism is due. As well, only a fool would believe that the Obama Administration hasn’t mishandled and misjudged the progressive cyber-community on more than one occasion. But the potential impact of the digital grassroots has been blunted mostly by the shocking willingness of so many to wallow in disinformation and histrionics. The promise of a synergy between elected power and a vigorous leftosphere leveraging technology for information sharing and activism is lost in a miasma of all-caps paranoia and misdirected anger. A community organizer can’t organize a community that refuses to be organized. Continue reading Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

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Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)

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ONE: ZOMG? Really?

Heavens to Betsy Ross! Another Obama Administration… uh… scandal. The NSA has been metadata harvesting. Of course, they’ve been doing so for years, with Congressional oversight and sanction of the FISA court, both a result of restrictions placed on executive branch power by a bipartisan legislative consensus after unlawful abuse by the Bush (mis)Administration. Still, this is totally outrageous, yes?

Well, no. It’s the latest flimsy “scandal” the corporate media and its leering Republican friends want us to believe the Obama White House is “mired in” or “overwhelmed by,” with an added fillip of racy intrigue provided by a mysterious young NSA contractor whose motives, biography and even current whereabouts all remain tantalizingly shadowy.

The applicable law and degree of oversight both need substantial improvement. Perhaps that would have already happened had so many of us on the left not essentially gone silent about this until these recent “revelations” (which so far have been in no meaningful way revelatory). An honest national dialogue about surveillance and a host of other “War on Terror” issues is years overdue. Unfortunately, the odds seem stacked against it.

For starters, it would have to exclude a Congress plainly not up to the task of reform. Worse, there’s a panoply of untrustworthy interests out there whose fondest desire is to gin up issues like this into improbably grave and gathering threats to the Republic itself.

Thus the hallelujah chorus of impeachment-starved Republicans, paranoid Teabaggers and Paulite nincompoops is now accompanied by the off-key descant of ostensibly progressive Obama “critics” who, implausibly, fancy themselves his base and routinely mistake being unreasoning hotheads for being principled firebrands.

Worse still, “discussion” of pretty much every legitimate issue nowadays – like the very legitimate issue of balancing domestic security with civil liberties – ends up spun into something apocalyptic, with strenuous blogospheric adjectives like “shocking” or “Orwellian” or “authoritarian” or “chilling” breezily deployed on the way to proving, one more tiresome time, that Mike Godwin is a genius.

Worst of all – or simply saddest – the histrionic, helium-pitched high dudgeon is an inadvertent but unmistakable admission by its subscribers of an attention deficit that stretches back through some or all of the past decade, at a minimum. So I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for an honest national dialogue on this.

As I’ve noted before, the real scandal is that this is the sort of thing that now passes for a scandal. A few years back, we were all congratulating ourselves about having “become the media.” Ironically, in some not at all positive ways, we truly have.

TWO: FFS Coalition

Meanwhile, on Planet Not Earth, Smilin’ Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition recently concluded its fourth annual “Road to Majority” conference, placating hardcore Republicans who believe the Values Voter Summit and CPAC just don’t provide enough flat-out ignorance, offensive oratory and general communitarian buffoonery every year. Unsurprisingly, the FFC has declared the event “a Success!”

And so it was, if the intention was to gather in one venue the nation’s worst and dimmest, spoon-feed credulous attendees with a ton of high-cholesterol cant, showcase the impressive range of horrendous ideas Republicans embrace, and – best of all – provide the rest of us with some laughs. The laughs began with the speaker roster, which included luminaries like – well, I’ll just let the Coalition’s own event recap speak for itself:

… the three day event…  kicked off with a luncheon featuring Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul,  Sen. Ron Johnson, and Sen. Mike Lee.

Our general sessions included speeches from Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rick Santorum, and many more!  At the Patriot Awards Gala Banquet, we recognized Pat Robertson with the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, and heard from speakers such as Donald Trump, Rep. Scott Rigell, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Randy Forbes, and special entertainment by Grammy & DOVE Award winning artist Sandi Patty!

When it comes to volume, Ms. Patty’s supple four-octave voice had nothing on the yawping succession of gum-flapping know-nothings who serially seized the podium to offer up cloying patriotic clichés and half-digested Randian roughage.

Newly risen from the dead but still lacking anything approximating charisma, Mark Sanford had a whole lot of stuff to say about government spending, all of it as simpleminded and desolately pointless as if he were reading it off the back of a cereal box:

“Historically, bad things have happened when you spend too much… and I think it’s a moral issue, because it’s the ultimate case of taxation without representation when you have systematically at a government level basically taking from young to afford benefits to old…

“We are at a tipping point the likes of which we have never seen…”

Why, it’s enough to make a principled conservative run screaming for the Appalachian Trail, unless said conservative just mustered up enough gullible poltroons to reward him with another taxpayer-funded gig working for the government he and his fellow Republicans want us to believe they hate so danged much. In which case you can count on him to go away about the same time venereal disease does. Sanford did, however, get one thing right:

“… in many ways I recognize the ways in which I am unworthy of offering my opinion or my perspective on a whole host of things given my failures in 2009.”

Those last five words were completely redundant, of course.

As most such conservative gatherings do, this one featured a scary, washed-up celebrity. With Victoria Jackson, Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris seemingly unavailable, the role went to John Ratzenberger, who loudly requested that a little of Allen West’s, uh, essence be distributed in all 50 states, and presumably in Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, as well:

“We should really take something from his gene pool and put it everywhere across this great country… [a] real American hero, my friend, Allen West.”

Herman Cain was also there, and his fact-free musings actually made Sanford’s sound statesmanlike by comparison:

“This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Yes, I said it.”

Yes, he said it. Actually, he says it a lot, mostly when he’s earning some absurd fee to do so. Speaking of absurdity, he also offered up this curious observation:

“After I dropped out of the presidential race because of the viciousness of the media, they thought I was going to be quiet.”

Now, that’s odd. I thought he dropped out because he considers women chattel and couldn’t keep his creepy hands off of them, but I guess that’s something I read in the commie press. No, it seems that the would-be commander-in-chief was forced out of the race because Rachel Maddow and EJ Dionne were being mean to him.

Cain wasn’t the only laughingstock former presidential wannabe at the conference. Rick Perry was there, sharing his inner Rick Perry:

“I woke up the morning after the election of 2012 and was feeling a bit humbled…It was really clear that the case we made as conservatives and, frankly, some of us as candidates, we didn’t move the majority of people in this country…

“I’ve learned a little bit about humility, particularly on national television.  God hasn’t called the perfect to go into public service. He’s called people like you and me. ”

As if to underscore the point, he also said this about (I think) Benghazi:

I fear where we’ve come to in America, where our administration won’t make one phone call to save our men and women in an embassy in Lebanon…”

Silly Rick! Everyone knows Lebanon is a city in Pennsylvania. But Perry, Cain, Sanford and all the other addlepated flat-earthers who spoke were simply prelude to the headliner, that indisputably perfect exemplar of utter know-nothingness, Sarah Palin, who brought a whole steamer trunk full of ludicrous one-liners down from Wasilla. On American intervention in Syria:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing….let Allah sort it out!”

On the Brothers Tsarnaev, with a side order of suddenly-fashionable NSA poutrage:

“Our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but it couldn’t find two pot smoking dead-beat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya. Really?”

She also revisited her moth-eaten “death panels” calumny while discussing Obamacare, joked about her own fertility in a swipe at Jeb Bush’s “Road to Majority” comment on fertile immigrants, and in an another apparent swipe – this one at Michelle Obama’s reaction to the boorish Ellen Sturtz – said this:

“If there’s any protesters here, speak now or forever hold your peace…because facing the protesters, facing the critics, that’s something I do well…”

Usually by quitting. Continue reading Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)

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Stormy Monday, 4/29/13

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By the time you read this, the sequestration-related air traffic controller furlough should be over, after Congress stoically incurred friction burns rushing through emergency legislation coincidentally allowing its members to withdraw expeditiously from DC for a well-deserved nine-day recess. Added egalitarian dividend: you, Mr. or Ms. JQ Public, will once again be able to get ripped off, inconvenienced, insulted and treated like a criminal at an airport near you. With luck, you’ll be able to depart before H7N9, China’s new and improved strain of life-threatening bird flu, arrives. Ah, normalcy.

If you survive all that, you can treat yourself to a Twinkie come July, when the sugary snack rises from the dead with a little help from non-union labor.

After determining that Paul Kevin Curtis was guilty of nothing more than being a fair-to-middling Elvis impersonator, authorities have now arrested James Everett Dutschke in connection with the ricin-contaminated letters sent to Judge Sadie Holland, Senator Roger Wicker and President Obama on April 8.

Dutschke, who has unsuccessfully run for political office twice – once as a Republican and once as a Democrat – also faces multiple counts of child molestation, but was out on bond, at least until his Saturday arrest. The FBI’s handling of the ricin case has drawn a lot of criticism. Have they finally got the right guy? Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/29/13

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Take Five (Mouths of Babes edition)

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ONE: And a Little Child Shall Impede Them

Tennessee Republican state senator Stacey Campfield describes himself on his blog as “just an average guy….with a real cool job.” The trouble is that Campfield seems to believe his job is to be an utter dick. Take for example his newest idea, noted here a couple of weeks back, a bill to slash TANF benefits by 30 percent for households with children performing unsatisfactorily in school.

Last week, Campfield asked fellow legislators to hold the bill “for further study,” shortly after he was shown up by an eight-year-old girl. Aamira Fetuga confronted Campfield in the state Capitol and handed him a petition with 2,500 signatures in opposition to the legislation. Campfield’s immediate reaction, as expected, was to be a complete dick:

“How are you? Thanks for coming,” Campfield said, taking the petition. “I love it when people use children as props.”

And I love it when a politician who once proposed issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses lectures other people about props. Campfield quickly cut and ran from his pint-sized nemesis, or tried to:

He then set off on the three-minute walk to the Senate chamber. Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of child advocacy group Gideon’s Army, which organized the protest along with Clergy for Justice and Stand for Children, shouted after him that her daughter was not a prop and that he works for the people…

Well, Rasheedat was half right; her daughter is certainly not a prop. In fact, Aamira was a full participant, and seemed admirably self-possessed and engagingly direct:

“I’m worried about the lights being cut off,” she said.

“That won’t happen as long as you have a decent parent who can show up for two conferences,” Campfield replied.

He was referring to a provision in the bill stipulating that parents could avoid having their family’s benefits slashed by jumping through one of a number of possible hoops: “an eight-hour parenting class, meeting twice with teachers, enrolling a child in summer school or arranging tutoring.”

After taking refuge in the Senate chamber only to find that several Republican senators previously onside were now opposed, Campfield finally withdrew the bill. For now, anyway; a crucial element of Campfield’s comprehensive dickishness is his persistence. I offer as Exhibit A the fact that he has been introducing various iterations of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill for fully half a decade now.

For more context, check out Les Leopold’s horrifying new overview of what happened in Tennessee while civilization had its back turned and absolute dicks like Stacey Campfield were elected to positions of power.

Last word goes to the wholly unreconstructed dick himself, an exceedingly rare example of Campfield actually being correct about something:

“There’s always going to be detractors.”

TWO: Love and Marriage

A recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal finds that 53 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage. Among Democrats, it was favored by 73 percent of respondents, while 66 percent of Republicans continue to support discrimination.

So it wasn’t exactly shocking that the RNC, at its spring meeting in LA, decided to renew its official opposition to marriage equality, by supposedly unanimous voice vote:

Resolved, the Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further

Resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U. S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, a cynical observer just might think the Republican Party’s definitive reaffirmation of institutional bigotry is a response to the threat of reliable money spigots being turned off, but of course it could be simply a remarkable coincidence:

After the Republican National Committee hinted at new outreach to gay voters, and possibly changing its stance or at least its tone on gay-rights issues, 11 influential social-conservative groups aired their grievances in a letter addressed to [Reince] Priebus timed to coincide with the start of the RNC’s meeting…

“We respectfully warn GOP leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support…”

Even more suspiciously, the “unanimous” aspect of the resolution’s approval was cast into doubt by an unfortunately soft-spoken attendee:

… Robert Kabel, a gay committeeman from the District of Columbia who supports allowing same sex nuptials, didn’t speak up. At least not loud enough for anyone to hear him.

Immediately after the vote… Priebus declared that all 157 members present had supported the measure.

… Kabel insists he dissented.

“I voted against the resolution. I did, it just wasn’t very vocal,” Kabel said after the meeting. “It’s hard to hear in here.”

Others, however, made themselves heard loudly, one being Michigan’s Dave Agema, the resolution’s sponsor. Agema appeared on a Family Research Council radio show to expound on his views in more detail:

“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said, ‘I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more.’ That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.'”

The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.

Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.'”

Yet when it comes to ludicrous views about homosexuality, Agema is a callow hobbyist compared with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who recently treated his radio audience to this sarcastic tirade:

“We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are, and can stay away from them.”

The very same day, a different but equally appalling take was offered up by the reflexively offensive Bill Donohue, loosely hinged president of the Catholic League, in a television appearance on Current:

“This idea of two men getting married is the most bizarre idea in human history,” Donohue told host John Fugelsang, adding that the purpose of marriage is a “duty” to procreate.

“The whole purpose of marriage is to have a family,” he said. “It’s not about making people happy. It’s not about love.”

I’m beginning to understand why Donohue’s marriage ended in divorce. Continue reading Take Five (Mouths of Babes edition)

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